Primorsky Krai is a Russian outpost in the Asia-Pacific Region. Aleksey Starichkov, the Head of the International Cooperation Department of Primorsky Krai, describes how we have developed contacts with our closest neighbors in an interview for EastRussia.
– Aleksey, what has been the level of Primorsky Krai's engagement in international cooperation this year?
– Primorye is perhaps one of the few Russian regions that are leading an active and eventful international life. Vladivostok is the second largest consular city in Russia. There is no other city in Russia, except for Moscow and St. Petersburg, with such a large amount of foreign diplomatic missions as Vladivostok. Today, there are 7 consulates-general operating in Primorye and representing the following foreign countries: China, India, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, United States, and Vietnam. There is also a Chancellery of the Kyrgyz Embassy in Russia. In addition, there are 15 honorary consuls of other countries, including several European ones, registered and operating in Vladivostok.
In 2016, more than 200 official and working meetings with foreign partners were hosted by the administration of Primorsky Krai. This year, Primorye was visited by about 160 foreign delegations and officials of various levels. Our department, in particular, provides organizational and protocol support for the visits of senior officials from foreign countries, such as, for example, Hiroyuki Yoshiie, the Vice-Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan; Iida Keyya, the Japanese Cabinet Office Member, Deputy General Director of the Health Department for Medical Industry Promotion and Global Health Care Expansion at the Ministry of Health of Japan; and Chen Changguo, the Deputy Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee. It also provides support to the diplomatic missions of foreign countries, including the Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bangladesh, Finland, Hungary, India, Israel, Japan, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey, for the representatives of the Embassies of China, Denmark, France, and Germany.
– What are the most important issues for your international contacts?
– International relations are interwoven into everyone's daily lives in Primorsky Krai in almost all major areas: education, science, culture, economics and foreign trade, transportation, and agriculture and fishing. This is enabled by Primorye's favorable geographic location and current geopolitical trends: the region's advancement is closely linked with the multifaceted and versatile development of international cooperation.
In order to build and strengthen a positive image of Primorye, and to promote trade and economic opportunity in the region among the SCO and ASEAN countries, this year the International Cooperation Department organized and hosted more than 176 international meetings with on economics and trade both within the region and abroad. All of these activities were carried out as part of implementing the Russian President Vladimir Putin's States of the Nation and personally supervised by the Governor of Primorsky Krai, Vladimir Miklushevsky.
In addition, there are international cooperation programs in social, cultural, and educational areas. If we look at all of these meetings, forums, and talks, it turns out that there are two or three meetings with foreign representatives almost every day, on average. The vast majority of these meetings, of course, are dedicated to trade, economic cooperation, investment, and tourism.
In general, the international life of Primorye is rich and diverse. It includes cultural events like exhibitions, festivals, tours; our local small stage of the Mariinsky Theater, Gorky Drama Theater; scientific and educational process: there are thousands of international students and hundreds of foreign teachers in Primorye universities, not only in the Far Eastern Federal University, but also in other higher education institutions. The Primorye Sports Arena has already become an international space in every sense of the word, with not only Russian but also international competitions in various sports held every year. A large number of foreign delegations come to Primorye to take part in major international events like the Days of Tottori Culture, Days of Heilongjiang Province, Week of Jilin Culture, 3rd Far Eastern Media Summit, Asia-Pacific Youth Sports Games, 9th International Fishermen Congress, 20th "Nature Without Borders" International Ecological Forum, and so on.
– Is the quantity of meetings improving the quality of cooperation?
– Sure! There are tangible results in inbound tourism growth: the region has taken the lead on this indicator. Over the past two years, the tourist inflow has multiplied. The main source of these numbers is the tourist flow from Asia. There are three key sources: China, South Korea and Japan. The largest part of the inbound flow among these three countries is taken by China. The number of Chinese tourists visiting our region this year has already surpassed 350,000 people. We can observe quite positivie growth dynamics: compared to last year, the flow of tourists from China increased by 30%. If we talk about the tourist flows that come as part of the agreements on visa-free exchanges, then there has been an increase of about 65-70% in comparison to last year. The last two years has clearly shown positive dynamics.
In 2012, at the APEC summit, Russia for the first time introduced a renewed Vladivostok to the world. Since then, the city has twice hosted one of the largest international events, the Eastern Economic Forum. What are your impressions from the EEF-2016?
– Obviously, the 2nd Eastern Economic Forum was the most important event in Primorsky Krai this year. Let me remind you that the Forum was attended by the heads of three states: the leaders of Japan and the Republic of Korea, our nearest neighbors in the Asia-Pacific Region, arrived here, as well as the President of Russia. The constructive meetings of the heads of three largest countries of the region became a kind of message to the international business community and representatives of other countries. Vladivostok is a center for cooperation between Russia and the Asia-Pacific Region. Here you can and you need to meet and discuss business cooperation and other important economic issues.
– Whose visit was especially memorable?
– For me, the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the most vivid. He managed to simply, beautifully, and strongly communicate his definitive position to the public: today Japan is striving for active cooperation with Russia, and with the Russian Far East, not only at the level of major industrial corporations and investors, but also at the level of small and medium-sized businesses.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear his sincere admiration for the Far East, its people, and the unique nature of Primorsky Krai. Such words about Russia and Vladivostok, spoken by the leader of the state, could not leave anyone indifferent.
Of course, one of the highlights of Abe's speech was a proposal addressed to Vladimir Putin: the Japanese Prime Minister expressed his wish to meet regularly in Vladivostok, as, according to him, it is one of the most beautiful cities in the Far East.
– Now relations between Russia and Japan are developing in a friendly atmosphere. This was confirmed by the meeting of the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the 2nd Eastern Economic Forum in Primorye, and the visit of the Russian leader to Japan. How active is international cooperation between Primorye and Japan? What areas are the most promising?
– Not so long ago the Days of Primorsky Krai ended in Tottori. An extended delegation of representatives of the Primorye administration and business worked in Tottori Prefecture in the cities of Osaka and Tokyo. I would like to note that Primorsky Krai and Tottori Prefecture are connected by more than 25-years of cooperation: a memorandum on the development of friendly relations between the regions was signed in 1991.
Today, Tottori Prefecture is very well represented in Primorye: there is a permanent establishment of commercial companies, and consultations and information support are provided to the businessmen establishing relations with Japan. There are 31 enterprises with Japanese investment operating in Primorsky Krai, and as a whole, in terms of accumulated investment in Primorye, Japan is the clear leader among Russia's Asian trading partners in the Far East.
The areas of our most active cooperation include wood processing and mechanical engineering. We have also discussed joint plans in mining, agriculture, construction and tourism. A number of important agreements were signed in Tokyo and Osaka, where the Governor of the region Vladimir Miklushevsky held talks with the leaders of the largest business associations, "Kankeyren", which includes more than a thousand companies and a quarter of the country's gross domestic product. The Investment Agency of Primorsky Krai also held some business meetings in three Japanese cities: Tokyo, Yonago and Osaka. In addition, a seminar was held for Japanese businessmen, where potential partners spoke about the new economic conditions of Primorye and the forms of state support to increase the investment potential of the region.
They also discussed issues related to the export of goods produced in Primorye and the Far East to the Japanese market. Today, Japanese businessmen are taking an active interest in such areas as medicine, forest products, and the fishing industry. Our partners have serious intentions to enter the market in Primorye. In this context, such business missions to Japan are very important and relevant for the development of economic cooperation. All of the regular and annual events have contributed to the stability of international cooperation in the region.
– Japanese business is becoming more active in Primorye. An agreement was recently signed between IIDA Group and RFP Group on the development of timber processing in Primorsky Krai, and the Japanese company JGC made has talked about the development of healthcare services in Vladivostok. What do you expect from these projects?
– Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe suggested to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin in May an eight-item list on improving the quality of life as one promising area for future collaboration between Russia and Japan It is based on the improving living conditions and health care for citizens of both countries. We have developed some interesting projects in these areas with major Japanese manufacturing investors. One of them is IIDA's project. This company plans to start operations in Primorye and become one of the main shareholders of one of the largest local logging enterprises. The consortium plans to launch production of wooden residential housing sets, which will be available both on Russian and international markets, including the premium Japanese one.
The second mentioned example is cooperation in the field of health care. We have a striking example of such cooperation, the Hukuto medical diagnostic center, which has already been working in Vladivostok for three years. This center operates under the supervision of Japanese experts, and its doctors continuously receive training in Japan. Along with the development of international cooperation, the Hukuto center plans to invest more in the development of medical area. We welcome this development, and we are ready to provide support to our partners.